Friday, September 28, 2012

Robert Kenneth Cameron is 100 years old

Robert Kenneth Cameron is 100 Years old. This blog honors him and his father, William Cameron, as “Great Scots.”

William Cameron was born October 11, 1873 in Charleston, Nigg outside of Aberdeen, Scotland. His father was a crofter and the family of ten lived in a small stone house, constructed in an L shape with three fireplaces to withstand the cold winds off the North Sea. “From this humble beginning he rose to be included in a list of 8,000 prominent Scots worldwide and President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.”

In 1896, at the age of 22, he left for America with his friend, David Mackie. They traveled in steerage. In 1903, William Cameron, with his wife and first son returned to Scotland, traveling second class. Before the stock market crash in 1929, he traveled again to Scotland with his family, this time in first class. His method of travel is indicative of his success in America.

In 1910, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron built their first house at 174 N. LeClaire Ave. (Chicago), not far from their plant at Ashland and Fulton. He bought his first automobile in 1914. In 1924, they built a larger house at 824 Bonnie Brae in River Forest, west of Chicago. In 1926, he bought 1,300 acres of land on the Kankakee River in Indiana. By 1927-28 he had built a house, garage and barn and dredged channels to create a “game preserve returning the land to the old Kankakee river beds and marshes.” The property is still owned by members of the Cameron family.

Mr. Cameron belonged to the Medinah Temple and was a 32nd Degree Mason. He was Past Chief of Clan Campbell, No 28. He was Director of two banks which failed in the stock market crash of 1929, In one bank, all the company money was lost. The Harris Bank came to his rescue with loans and assistance.

“In the 1930's William Cameron, by setting up a Will and Trusts leaving all his assets in Trust to the four children and Mother, he again showed foresight and wisdom considering his untimely death in 1934 at the age of 60 years when he had reached the height of his career as President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.” His death was caused by pneumonia, and poor medical care may have been a contributing factor.

(Let me pause here and refer our readers to the family website “Our Cameron history.” Here you can trace the family history and a complete summary of the life of William Cameron written by his son Robert Kenneth. There are many pictures. The quotations in this article come from the family web site.

William Cameron spent almost his entire life in the canning business, especially in can-making machinery. He rose quickly in this business and we know him as the President of the Cameron Can Machinery Company. His building still stands on Ashland Avenue and has recently been renovated into office spaces and stores. The name CAMERON engraved in large letters remains above the front door. (We have driven by this building several times on our various history tours.) A six-story tower and clock that once chimed makes the building visible to the community. Its assessed value is presently $1,500,000.

Mr. Cameron owned a total of 48 patents before his premature death in 1934. He was a prolific inventor. “It was his custom when living in River Forest that after dinner he would retire to the living room, sitting in an easy chair in semi-darkness smoking a cigar, thinking and with his dog Queenie lying at his feet. He got a box of cigars every week from Cuba.” Not only was Mr. Cameron a prolific inventor, he was also an outstanding businessman. The Cameron Can Machine Company had offices in Paris, London, Hong Kong and New York with agents around the world.

In 1989, I began a search for the oldest son, Allan W. Cameron, whose last know address was in Naples, Florida. Unable to find a telephone listing, I wrote to every person named Cameron with a Naples address. Allan W. replied and I had one short conversation with him before his death.

Shortly after, I become acquainted with the youngest son, Robert K. Cameron who in now 100 years old. His wife, Gertrude M. is celebrating her 99th birthday as I write this article. Mr. Cameron is probably the oldest Life member of the Society. If someone is older, please let us know.

In 1935, the sons, Robert and Allan presented to the St. Andrew Society a check with the following comments:

 “We have always felt that our father, William Cameron, would have made a contribution to the Scottish Old Peoples Home had it not been for his sudden death. We would like to have a room in the Home dedicated to his memory. In the belief that the Board of Governors will set aside a room for that purpose, we are enclosing a check for $10,000 made payable to the Illinois Saint Andrew society. We trust to be in a position in future years to make further contributions to this worthy cause.”

On June 9, 1989, I first visited the family plot located in Forest Home Cemetery. It is in Section 12, lot 34 and contains an angel hovering over a beautiful monument. We also visited the family plot one of our History Tours.

This coming Saturday, September 29, 2012, the remaining son, Robert Kenneth will have a birthday party at the Chicago Yacht Club. He is also the oldest member of the Yacht club. I have been invited to attend and honor this outstanding man, his father, and the entire Cameron Clan in Chicago.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

The last day to reserve your place on our History Tour is September 30, 2012. Go to our secure store to make your reservations.

November 6 - History Club meeting featuring Molly McNeil who spent a month in Africa. Also, our reigning Heather Queen, and Rosie Johnson.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Billy Graham Visits Scotland

In 1955, Billy Graham held a campaign in Glasgow, Scotland. It lasted six weeks and more than 2.6 million people attended the services. The meetings were held in Kelvin Hall which was opened in 1927 as an exhibition hall. During World War II it was a factory used to produce barrage and convoy balloons. In 1964, Jerry Lee Lewis held a rock concert in the Hall. In 1985, the building was modernized and turned into an indoor sports facility.

During his campaign, Billy Graham preached virtually every night for 6 weeks. The Hall was filled and Mr. Graham would go outside and address the people who could not get in the building. There was usually a cold rain falling. Near the end of the campaign the services moved to Ibrox Stadium where 50,000 people attended. The final night was held in Hampden Park where the estimated crowd was 100,000. “Mr. Graham preached to thousands of steelworkers and dockers at the John Brown shipyard and other mills and factories as well as at colleges and universities.”

On Good Friday, BBC radio and television carried his message and later, it was learned, the Queen had watched the broadcast on television. At the Renfield Street Church 1,000 ministers met to hear his message. St. John’s Renfield Church is a member of the Church of Scotland and serves Kelvindale which is in the west end of Glasgow. The church was built between 1927 and 1930. It was dedicated in 1931. (There are pictures on the Internet.)

Billy Graham returned again to the homeland of his ancestors in 1991. Fourteen denominations issued the invitation. This time meetings were held in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and also in Glasgow. Using television extensively the services were transmitted to 58 venues throughout the United Kingdom.

In Edinburgh, they used Murrayfield Stadium. In Aberdeen, he was welcomed by the Lord Provost and the meetings were held at Pittodrie Stadium. So many were attending the meetings “in spite of the cold winds sweeping in from the sea, that Scott Rail added extra trains from Perth and Inverness."

Bill Graham held a campaign in Chicago in 1962. He was here for 19 days and the services were held in McCormick Place. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that “the closing rally was held on Sunday in Soldiers’ Field.” Attendance was estimated at 116,000. Traffic was blocked for 20 miles. An average of 37,000 persons a day attended the meetings from May 30 through June 16. “The total attendance was estimated at 704,900.”

The Billy Graham Center Museum opened in 1980 and is the largest building on campus. Please join us as we visit Wheaton College, the Billy Graham Center and the Wheaton Center for History. You can register here...........Deadline is September 30.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

November 6, 2012:  History Club meeting will feature Molly McNeil and her journey to Africa this past summer. Also, Rosie Johnson and our 2012 Heather Queen. More information to follow soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Most Important Invention of the Nineteenth Century?

When I was a child, someone decided I needed a tonsillectomy so my parents took me from our cabin in the foothills of the Ozarks to Springfield, Missouri, for the operation. I have a few memories of that day, like I couldn’t have a drink and it was raining. But what I remember most was the sedation. A mask of some kind was placed over my face and I was forced to inhale a terrible gas. My mother always said it was ether but it may have been chloroform. It was a very frightening experience.

Recently, I had an angiogram at Central DuPage Hospital, now called Cadence Health. I guess I don’t understand the name change because it will always be Central DuPage Hospital to me - like the Sears Tower in Chicago. Why give up years of great history for a name that no one understands and one you have to explain? Regardless, it’s a great hospital and they have just opened a new wing which is certainly more opulent than I need.

When the time arrived, I was wheeled into the operating room and under bright lights where everyone was introduced. I was quickly asleep without knowing exactly when it happened. No mask, no pain - it was quite a change from 80 years ago.

Can, you image having surgery without anesthetics? (Read the blog for December 2011 “Dr. Ephraim McDowell and His Christmas Miracle.”)

The following statement was found in the Cambridge Sketches by Frank P. Stearns now in the public domain.

“A distinguished American called upon Charles Darwin, and in the course of conversation asked him what he considered the most important discovery of the nineteenth century. To which Mr. Darwin replied, after a slight hesitation: ‘Painless surgery.’ He thought this more beneficially in its effects on human affairs than either the steam-engine or the telegraph. Let it also be noted that he spoke of it as an invention, rather than as a discovery.”

It was not until the 1840s that a process had been invented for the use of ether or chloroform. If you search the Internet, you will find such names as: Dr. Samuel Guthrie, Sir James Young Simpson and Crawford Williamson Long as connected to the use of ether and chloroform.

For this discussion, I would like to concentrate on William Thomas Green Morton. He was born the son of a farmer and represented the fifth generation of the Morton family that came from Scotland. Historian James C. Thomson wrote: “The Morton’s were in the vanguard of the first thin stream of Scottish emigrants flowing steadily for the next 300 years from the Highlands and Islands, the Lowlands, and Ulster to the New World.”

William Thomas Green Morton was born August 9, 1819, near Charlton, Massachusetts. He moved to Boston and took up the study of dentistry and was a graduate of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. He drifted into the practice of making artificial teeth but the pain suffered by his patients was a constant concern to him. He began to experiment with ether, first on animals and them on himself.

On September 1, 1846, he put Gilbert Abbott to sleep using ether and extracted a tooth without pain. He called the substance “letheon” and was given a government patent. He jealously guarded the process and would only issue a license personally for its use. He later explained that it was ether and was thus unable to protect his patent. He spent 20 years and his entire fortune trying to protect his invention.

In 1862, Morton joined the Army of the Potomac as a volunteer surgeon and used ether on more than two thousand injured soldiers during the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness. I have read that ether was widely used on the battlefields of the Civil War.

By 1868, the life of William Morton was a complete shamble. His health was gone and he had no resources. Trying to protect his invention had taken his health and his wealth. In July of that year, he was in New York City and it was unbearably hot and humid. Like other New Yorkers, he went to Central Park to find relief from the heat but it was not to be. He never returned. William Thomas Green Morton is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Watertown, Massachusetts.

A friend said: “Like many another benefactor of mankind, Doctor Morton’s reward on earth was a crown of thorns.”

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Scottish American History Club

Please register for the History Tour scheduled for October 6, 2012. First stop is Wheaton College and the Billy Graham Center. Second stop is at the Wheaton History Museum. Cost is $25.00 per person. You can register and pay at our store or call (708) 447-5092.

November 6, 2012, History Club meeting. Main presentation is by Molly McNeil and her trip to Africa. Rosie Johnston will also talk about her work and we will have a visit from this year’s reining Heather Queen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012



The Scottish American History Club will meet this coming Saturday, September 8, 2012,  in Heritage Hall at the Scottish home located at 2800 Des Plaines Ave. North Riverside, IL. The program will be conducted by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society. 

On Saturday, July 24, 1915, 7000 people gathered at the Chicago River for the annual employee picnic of Western Electric. Many of them boarded the Eastland and within five minutes, 20 feet from shore, 844 people perished. Most of them lived in the Cicero and Berwyn area not far from the location of our meeting on Saturday.

The Eastland Disaster Historical Society is dedicated to keeping memories alive with stories, pictures and presentations. This is a program you will enjoy and is a part of Chicago’s history. There is no charge but reservations are appreciated. The program is made possible by a generous donation from June Steele and the Halverson Fund. Call 708-447-5092 for reservations and travel information.


The first Fall History Tour is scheduled for October 6, 2012. The chartered bus will arrive at the Scottish home at noon and we will leave promptly at 12:30 PM.  Our first stop will be at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. This magnificent building is located on the campus of Wheaton College. The first floor is a mseum dedicated to the life and ministry of the Rev. William Franklin Graham,Jr. The Museum notes that he had a strong Scottish heritage

Billy Graham met his wife, Ruth Bell, while both were attending Wheaton College.  Mrs. Graham was born in China to missionary parents who also had a Scottish heritage. Ruth Bell Graham died June 14, 2007 at their home in Montreat, North Carolina.


The second stop on our fall tour will be at the Center for History, a facility of the Wheaton Historic Preservation Council. This beautiful mseum, designed by the same firm that designed the Georgeson wing and our mseum, is located on Front Street in downtown Wheaton, Illinois. Alberta Adamson, CFRE, is the President and CEO. 

The exhibits are: War of the Rebellion, 1861-65,  Frames of the Eastland Disaster, Wheaton’s Link to Golf, and Wheaton’s National Hall of Fame. I can almost guarantee that you will learn something new,especially about golf!

Cost is $25.00 per person which includes transportation and admissions. Call 708-447-5092 for reservations before September 30 or visit our store.  Special discounts are available for teens and families. Call me at 630.629.4516 or send me an email for more information.

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

Molly McNeil goes to Africa.  Mark your calendar - more information later! 

Wayne Rethford
Scottish American History Club
(630) 629-4516